In Proof of Life (2000), a kidnap thriller set in fictional South American country Tecala, Meg Ryan plays Alice Bowman, one of the least convincing hippies ever committed to film. On Alice, hippie seems like a passing trend rather than a lifestyle choice.
Meg Ryan’s costumes are a mix of sarong skirts with embroidery, cotton vests, tie-dyed t-shirts, big belts, linen shirts, waist cincher, leather jacket, waistcoat, sandals, even a matelot sweater. Add in a $300 hairdo with a generous application of lip gloss and Alice Bowman, all in all, looks pretty fresh considering her husband has been trapped in captivity, or quite possibly dead, for several months.
Proof of Life makes a big hurrah of Alice’s culinary skills. To accentuate her ‘earth mother’ credentials Alice spends considerable time in the kitchen, though apparently not cooking much for anyone or eating a great deal herself (she prefers supporting the faceless tobacco corporations).
For Alice, trawling the local food markets with her straw shopping bag, instructing her Hispanic maid to barter for ingredients she can’t pronounce herself is what hippie life is all about. Dreamily drifting from Guavas to Tamarind – this is her Wonderland.
Just a fleeting glance at Alice, her clothes, hair and make-up, and it is clear she is a woman playing hippie (a ‘hippy’?). Interestingly despite Meg Ryan’s uniform look, hippie fashion bears little relation to consistency. Pigeon-holed from the early 1960s to early 70′s, hippie continued well into the disco era for some locales (namely California) and has hung around there ever since.
Hippie was anti-fashion; it was about dropping out and nose thumbing the establishment. Though for most hippies any thumbing would likely have been conducted from a horizontal position while puffing on a herbal smoke. For women the look often comprised denim flares, long skirts, chunky knitwear, flowers, scarves, very little make-up – it was a vibe more than anything else.
Denim was also popular for male hippies, along with Kurta shirts in linen or cotton and ex-army desert boots. There was a lot of crossover between the sexes; faded bell bottom jeans in particular were often unisex. Hippie clothes were purchased from markets either second hand or homemade. The idea was to be as relaxed and as close to nature as possible.
Alice at least gets those skirts right. Also tie-dye is an accurate touch. A waist cincher though? Are real hippies that concerned with form? The problem too is that her outfits do not appear remotely used. Alice looks as though she’s recently had a spend up at Monsoon.
Now, this is in no way intended as a slight against Proof of Life costume designer, the experienced and extremely talented Ruth Myers; more recognition that the character whom she is dressing is a phony. Plus Meg Ryan may have have wanted to move as far away from the ‘girl next door’ type as possible. There is also the distinct possibility that Alice’s pseudo-bohemianism was written as such in the script.
Maybe this is who Alice really is, superficial and conceited? She certainly acts as such. A supposed nonconformist in pristine pretty ethnic tops and a leather jacket so new you can practically hear it squeaking.
© 2011 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.